FICTION

Petrified Personality

A male Dorothy Dix experiments with advice to the lovelorn

OSCAR SCHISGALL July 1 1935
FICTION

Petrified Personality

A male Dorothy Dix experiments with advice to the lovelorn

OSCAR SCHISGALL July 1 1935

Petrified Personality

OSCAR SCHISGALL

A male Dorothy Dix experiments with advice to the lovelorn

OLD HORSEFACE, the managing editor, looking as if he had just swallowed an overdose of castor oil, glowered up at me across his desk. He was in his shirtsleeves, and perspiration glimmered on his bald head, dripped down his sagging cheeks.

“Kerry,” he said, “for the next two months you’ll run the Petrified Personality Column.”

1 blinked at him incredulously. “Me?”

“Why not?” he snapped. “As far as 1 can see, there’s nofxxiy around this office with half as much time on his hands as you seem to have. You may just as well put it to some use.”

“But what’s the matter with Mrs. Coe?” I protested, feeling a little sick. “Don’t tell me she’s quit.”

“Doctor’s orders,” curtly explained the chief. “Her eyes went bad. She’s got to stop work for a couple of months. Until she comes back, Kerry, you’re elected to run her column.”

1 gripixd the edge of his desk and leaned across it. Maybe I looked somewhat desperate, but that couldn’t be avoided.

“Listen, chief,” I argued. “I can’t write Mrs. Coe’s stuff. What do 1 know about petrified personalities?”

“You’ve got one; that’s a good beginning. The rest you can learn.”

“It. took me five years to learn to write about sports,” I groaned. “You can’t expect me to pick up—”

Old Horseface, scowling more darkly than ever, lifted papers and waved me to the door.

“Beat it! Do the best you can. All you’ve got to do is answer letters. Maybe some of the women out there will be glad to help you. I’ll be watching your stuff. If it doesn’t sound convincing, I’ll put somebody else on the job. Meanwhile, you collect an extra ten every week.”

That settled it, of course. What can you say against a ten-dollar raise? I turned in a daze and went out of his office. An hour later I took possession of the cubbyhole which had been the quarters of Mrs. Margaret Merchant Coe, conductor of the column she called—Have You a Petrified Personality?

TT WASN’T until I’d settled at her desk that I realized how stupendous a task I’d undertaken. In front of me lay a stack of perhaps 200 letters; one morning’s mail: all of them unopened. I stared at them blankly. It had never occurred to me before this to study Mrs. Coe’s methods. Of course, I’d read her column now and then—usually with a grin. In the office of the Meteor we secretly considered her stuff so much blah-blah—superficial, obvious, inane.

Maybe you’ve seen the column.

Every day Mrs. Coe answers the letter of somebody with a Petrified Personality—somebody in need of advice on the general subject of getting ahead. At the bottom of her column Mrs. Coe always urges:

“If you’re a wallflower in the ballroom of life, write to me. Perhaps I can tell you how to overcome the petrifaction of your personality.”

I pushed my hand back through dishevelled hair. After a time I lit a pipe, picked up an envelope, and with considerable misgivings read the first letter.

Dear Mrs. Coe:

What shall I do? I’m sixteen. My friends all tell me I’m pretty. But I’m dreadfully bashful. When men talk to me, I blush. That makes the other girls laugh, and they’re always taunting me. Also, it embarrasses the man. Still, I can’t help blushing. Is there any way I can overcome this?

Most earnestly yours, Destrate.

“This,” I muttered, “is going to be great.”

The’second one was:

Dear Mrs. Coe,

I’m an insurance salesman. I get along well enough with ordinary jxople, but I can’t muster up the courage to walk into the office of a Big Business man and tackle him on a really big policy. Whenever I try to push myself into facing such a man, my nerves just melt. My personality becomes truly petrified. What shall I do? Harassed.

“Boy,” I thought grimly, “if I knew the answer to that one, I wouldn’t be slaving here at forty-five per.”

The next five letters were even worse. How to write a serious column on any of them, I couldn’t see. And you had to be serious, of course. The people who wrote to Mrs. Coe weren’t accustomed to facetious replies. What they sought was sincerity—or, at any rate, the .semblance of it.

My respect for Margaret Merchant Coe soared very high, of a sudden.

T DREW a long breath, crossed my feet on the edge of her

desk, and read another half dozen letters through the smoke of my pipe. It was the fifteenth that finally made me sit up stiffly.

“If this one doesn’t give me a column,” I thought, “none of them will.”

I read the letter again:

Dear Mrs. Coe:

Whether or not I have a petrified personality. I don’t know. I’m hoping that when you hear my story you’ll be able to judge better than I—and perhaps give me some sound advice. I’ve been reading your column for two years, but I’ve always hesitated to make an enquiry of my own. Now, however, I feel so miserable, so completely lost, so stumped, that I must beg you to help me if you possibly can.

I know you’ll forgive me if I use fictitious names for everybody in this account, including myself. I don’t want to embarrass the others by naming them publicly in a story of my troubles.

Let us say, then, that my name is Nancy Ferguson. I am nineteen and work as a saleslady in the small department store of Conwitt and Son. I’ve been working here ever since my mother died, three years ago. And I board at the home of Mrs. Jones—the only lady in Pineville, as far as I know, who gets your paper regularly. That’s why I know your column so well.

But let me get on. Mr. Conwitt, Junior— Anthony Conwitt—is in active charge of the business. He is twenty-three, unmarried, and the handsomest thing that ever happened in Pineville. I know all the girls are crazy about him. But that doesn’t matter. I think I love him more than anybody else does. But somehow I just can’t make him realize it—I can’t make him aware of me. It’s true that when he passes my counter— lingerie— he always nods and smiles very pleasantly. But then, he does the same to all the other girls. Sometimes I try to think there’s more in the smile he gives me than in the smile he gives them. But I suppose I’m only fooling myself.

I know I’m not as pretty as some of the others. For one thing, I pay so much of my salary for board and lodging that I can’t afford many dresses. Still, those I buy are very becoming, and Mrs. Jones tells me I have the loveliest ash-blonde hair she’s ever seen, and that my figure is not at all bad, either.

But what’s the good of all that if Anthony Conwitt doesn’t even notice it?

Two months ago, when he assumed charge of the business, Mr. Conwitt, Junior, installed a new feature in the store. It’s the Friday Night Sociable. Every Friday evening, at half-past eight, all the employees ofConwitt’sgatheronthetop floor and have an informal little party. Mr. Conwitt himself always attends. We have refreshments and we dance to radio music. It’s supposed to be very nice—but for me every one of those Friday nights becomes a bitter experience.

Not that Mr. Conwitt doesn’t dance with me. He does. He dances with all the girls. And he’s really very nice to every one of them. But there’s one in particular—Julia Lane of the stocking counter—who always tries to monopolize him.

I don’t like to say things against Julia, but how can I make this an honest statement ot my predicament if I don’t tell you about her?

She’s small and dark and has very lovely black eyes. They’re round, with long lashes on which you can see little beads of mascara. She’s always fluffing up her hair and smiling when Mr. Conwitt passes her counter; and on Friday nights, she’s impossible. Whenever a dance starts, she always manages to be very close to him, so that when he turns

for a partner she’ll be the first one he sees. She wears her smile like a mask. Why he doesn’t see through her, I don’t know.

Last Friday, in the midst of her dance with him, she pretended suddenly to feel very faint and dizzy. It was only ten o’clock, but she said she would have to go home, feeling the way she did. And she added something about how horrible it would be to wait on a comer for the trolley—so that in the end Mr. Conwitt, being a gentleman, took her home in his car. Since then he stops at her counter every morning to ask how she feels. He’s been very nice to her, but you never saw anyone smile as disgracefully as Julia does whenever he passes.

Honestly. Mrs. Coe, I feel miserable. I’m not naturally the forward kind. Maybe it’s very silly for me to say I’m in love with a man like Anthony Conwitt. Still, I ain’t help saying it; after all. it’s true. Isn’t there some way I can

make him become aware of me? If only you can give me advice, I shall always be,

Most gratefully yours,

Nancy Ferguson.

PUTTING DOWN the long letter, I puffed at my pipe and stared thosghtfully through the window. Presently Jimmy Haner pushed his grinning face into the door and jeered :

“Hello, Mrs. Coe!”

I reached out with my leg and kicked the door shut. For perhaps ten minutes I gazed at the typewriter. Then I relit the pipe, shoved a sheet of paper under the roller, and went to work:

Dear Nancy Ferguson:

Your case resembles that of so many 1 hundreds of others who write to me that I I feel it’s worthy of a whole column. So I am Ái printing your letter in full. You poor girl!

J*; Do you really think your predicament as hopeless as you make it sound? Nonsense! Reading between the lines of what you have set down, I see a sensitive, lovely, selfrespecting creature—a little shy* perhaps, but only because you haven’t had proper guidance in the matter of developing your personality.

Yes, yours is indeed a petrified person' ality, dear Nancy Ferguson.

But can’t we lend it animation? Can’t we give you the glow, the self-confidence, the charm, the magnetism you desire?

You say you want to make Anthony Conwitt aware of you, yet you don’t wish to appear indecently forward. 1 take it. then, you don’t want to adopt the tactics of Julia Lane. Very well. Let us see what else you can do.

As I visualize you, dear Nancy Ferguson, you are now merely one among many salesgirls who attend those Friday evening sociables. You have done nothing to make yourself stand out among the others. Nothing to distinguish yourself. And really it shouldn’t be hard for you to accomplish that.

How?

Let us start with a simple system.

Did you ever think of developing some little “parlor trick” that would distinguish you among the other girls? I don't mean parlor magic. Don’t make that mistake. What I mean is this: Supix>se you go to your library and find some good book on—say, palmistry. Suppose you read it, acquaint yourself with some of the secrets of that strange yet fascinating science. Then what will happen?

At the next Friday night sociable, while several of the other girls are perhaps gathered around the handsome young Anthony Conwitt, monopolizing his attention, making him laugh—supuse at such a time, dear Nancy Ferguson, you were suddenly and unexpectedly to say to him:

“Mr. Conwitt, may I see your left hand?”

Of course, you will startle him. He will look at you in astonishment. Perhaps he will laugh. But he will let you see his left hand.

And then—amaze him by telling him things about himself. Whether you can read his palm or not, there are certain conclusions it is perfectly safe for you to draw from any man’s hand. Say to him, for example:

“Mr. Conwitt, I see by this line that you are a man of delicate sensibilities. You feel things very keenly—yet often conceal your feelings. Sometimes, when you’re hurt at something someone says, you smile because you have no desire to offend the other person. And this line—that indicates, Mr. Conwitt, that you’re of a generous nature. At heart you’re a philanthropist.”

By that time, my dear Nancy Ferguson, the other girls will be gaping at you. Perhaps Mr. Conwitt, too, will be impressed. Certainly he won’t withdraw his hand. The chances are that if you hesitate he’ll urge you to tell him more. He will suddenly become aware of you as somebody quite different from the other girls—somebody with a talent no one had hitherto suspected. Also, he will probably feel convinced that you have an uncanny insight and sympathy for his peculiar nature. If he begs you to continue, you may say things like this:

“Here’s a line which indicates a very strong intuition— especially about other people. You seem to understand the men and women you meet at first glance. You have a definite feeling about them. Mentally you place them in a category, and usually it’s the right category. And here’s a line that proves you’re a dreamer, Mr. Conwitt ...”

Any good book on palmistry, dear Nancy Ferguson, will advise you of some other things you may safely say. I wish you would try this system. I believe it will help you to blossom forth. I feel certain it will make Anthony Conwitt look upon you with fresh and new interest. Do let me know,

Continued on page 38

Continued from page 13

my dear child, what results you achieve

by adopting this suggestion.

0 THAT was my first column.

In ensuing days I wrote many more.

But that particular one—because it was the maiden effort, no doubt—clung tenaciously to my memory. Of course, the boys in the office all read the column. Two mornings later I found a book on phrenology on my desk. One of the sob sisters stopped me as I entered and reached up to grab my head in eager hands.

“Oh, Kerry!” she simpered. “Do let me study your skull! I know you’re a fascinating man by the very shape of that head— so knobby and square—and I’m so eager to make you aware of me!”

1 shook her off.

After a week of this sort of thing I was ready to chuck the whole job.

But the column, drawing 200 letters a day, had to go on; besides, there was that little matter of $10 a week extra. So I girded my mental loins, as it were, and stuck to Margaret Merchant Coe’s desk.

It was almost three and a half weeks later that I received a second communication from Nancy Ferguson. This time she wrote:

Dear Mrs. Coe:

I hardly know what to say. When I read your first bit of advice I instantly took it. I studied everything I could discover about palmistry. And on Friday night, at the sociable, I did precisely what you had directed me to do.

It worked beautifully.

Mr. Conwitt was astounded. Pie laughed and said he’d never suspected we had a fortune-teller in the store. He danced with me three times after that. I could see Julia Dine actually glaring at me over his shoulder as we swung around the room. But I didn’t care. I’d never been so happy in my whole life—except a little later when Mr. Conwitt drove me home in his car.

Outside Mrs. Jones’s boarding-house we sat together for fully fifteen minutes, just talking. Pfe even held my hand, so I read his palm again. He laughed more than ever. Pie said it was delightful—and asked me how I’d managed to memorize so many pages of a palmistry book.

Of course he was joking, so I didn’t mind.

All that week Mr. Conwitt was unusually nice to me. He would stop at my counter and laugh, “Got any new tricks up your sleeve?” And when he laughs he’s really very nice. His teeth flash, and his eyes shine, and he makes you feel tingly all over. The following Thursday night he was just leaving the store as I stepped out of the employees’ entrance. He invited me to hop into his car, and he drove me home. Oh, it was glorious!

But last Friday—oh, Mrs. Coe, you’ll never imagine what happened !

Julia iJane cornered Mr. Conwitt the instant he came into the social hall. She had two books. The first thing she insisted on was knowing his birthday. He told it to her in surprise, and she immediately made him sit down while she read his horoscope.

Mr. Conwitt looked from her to me and laughed harder than I’ve ever heard him laugh before. That evening, though he danced with me twice, he also danced twice with Julia Lane.

On the way downstairs, after the sociable, the little cat slipped and fell. Said she’d

hurt her knee. And Mr. Conwitt, of course, had to drive her home.

Dear Mrs. Coe, please tell me—do you think horoscopes are more interesting than palmistry? I feel all petrified again.

Anxiously, Nancy Ferguson.

I sat there staring at the letter for some five minutes. The column was already written for the day, but at its bottom I ripped out a paragraph and inserted :

Dear Nancy Ferguson,

Now try numerology. Plenty of good

books available. M. M. C.

TPIREE WEEKS later I heard from Nancy again. This time her letter actually worried me. In fact, it seemed so intimate a communication that I didn’t even consider putting it in the column. She wrote :

Dear Mrs. Coe:

The crash has come.

I suppose that after the correspondence we’ve had, you remember me. I hope so, anyhow; because I can’t bear to outline all the heartbreaking events which led up to the final disaster. Please try to recall them —or look up your files.

You will be interested to learn, I’m sure, that I adopted all your suggestions. After Julia I^ane had startled Anthony Conwitt with her horoscope, I did what I could to obtain information on numerology. There wasn’t much to be had in Pineville, but I saw an advertisement in a magazine. And when I answered this, somebody named Madame Zara sent me a booklet which told a great deal. This cost me one dollar. All week long I studied it. By Friday night, I felt, I would have something brand new with which to entertain Mr. Conwitt.

Perhaps I ought to mention that I bought a new frock Wednesday. It’s really very pretty—blue chiffon that fluffs up around the shoulders. Mrs. Jones, my landlady, said it’s the most becoming frock I’ve ever owned. She said it made me look divine. So I wore it Friday night to the sociable.

As soon as I came in, Julia L^ine looked at me and said, “My, my!” in one of those tones that make you boil. She fluffed up her hair and arched her brows and looked at me from head to foot, as if I were something in a show window. Quite a few of the other girls were standing around—did I ever tell you there are twenty-eight of us in the store?— and Julia said in a catty voice:

“I suppose you’ve got some new trick with which to steal the boss away from the rest of us this week?”

Imagine her saying that! Julia Lane, of all people! Julia, who’s always feeling faint or hurting her leg or studying horoscopes so that she may monopolize Mr. Conwitt ! I felt furious. But I had no chance to say anything because at that moment he himself entered.

He looked very breezy and happy. He nodded to everybody, and I thought he had a specially nice nod for me. Then he crossed the room to the refreshment counter, and I went over to stand near a window. After all, you can’t jump at a man the moment he appears and try to spring numerology on him. I couldn’t have made it as obvious as all that, could I, Mrs. Coe?

But imagine how I felt when, scarcely a ,

moment later, I saw a group of girls gathered around Mr. Conwitt. Julia Lane was doing j all the talking. I couldn't hear what it was I she said. So presently I moved over closer to them. And what do you think I heard?

“But numerology. Mr. Conwitt,” Julia was giggling in that way of hers, “is really the most advanced of all these sciences. 1 've made quite a study of it and as far as I Ve j been able to discover, it’s much more exact than palmistry or horoscopes or anything else. Will you let me give you a reading?” Julia Lane—and numerology!

Anthony Conwitt smiled. He looked ! around over the girls’ heads until his eyes met mine. I thought he winked at me. But ; before I could be sure, he called :

“Miss Ferguson, you certainly started1 something around here.”

My face must have blazed. What could I do except smile weakly and nod and walk away? I felt shaky. One of the other boys asked me to dance. I hardly knew I said yes. It was a waltz; and while we moved around the floor, I felt dizzy and furious and miserable. It was quite dear to me now that Mr. Conwitt saw through all our trickery; and I felt terribly ashamed.

What made it worse was that one of the other girlsDora Sylvester—had learned to read fortunes by tea leaves and also insisted on giving Mr. Conwitt a reading. Somebody else had brought a deck of cards and was begging him for an opportunity to sit with him in a corner and tell his fate as revealed by aces and kings and queens.

I’ve never seen anybody more amused : than was Anthony Conwitt that evening.

As he was torn from one girl to another, you felt he was doing his best to restrain great bellows of laughter. Once, while he was dancing with Julia Lane, he passed me and | whispered :

“Yes, Nancy, you started things.”

The mortification that flamed through me, Mrs. Coe, was beyona expression. It’s true that before I wrote you I had a petrified personality. I was “a wallflower in the ballroom of life,” as you put it. Anthony Conwitt never seemed to notice me at all. But what’s happened now?

He’s aware of me, all right! He probably thinks I’m the world’s greatest idiot. He must realize I started this business simply : to attract his attention. How can he have • any respect for me? How can he do anything but laugh at me? And think of me with contempt?

That, at any rate, is the way I felt Friday evening. By ten o’clock I could no longer endure his amused glances. I ran out oí the social hall, got my coat, and went down the stairs. Of course, the party wouldn’t break up for another hour or two, but I didn’t care.

I wanted to go home. I'd never before felt so ¡ cheap, so small, so humiliated in my life, j It was while I was hurrying toward the trolley at the corner that I heard Mr. Conwitt behind me. I knew who it was even before I turned.

He was a little breathless as he reached my ¡ side. He’d forgotten to take his hat and I coat, and the night breeze was ruffling his dark hair. He looked so handsome that, staring at him, I felt an ache in my throat.

“See here, Nancy,” he protested, “you’re not leaving us flat, are you?”

I nodded. I couldn’t speak.

“Why?” he asked.

“I—I don’t feel very well.”

“Nonsense!” he laughed. “You’ve never looked better in your life. That little dress is a knockout. You ought to wear fluffy blue chiffon always. Come back and finish out the evening.”

But I shook my head.

“All right,” he suddenly decided, “then I’ll run you home in my car.”

I suppose you think I felt deliriously overjoyed. I suppose you think I jumped at the [opportunity. But no, Mrs. Coe, 1 didn’t.

; There was such a terrible sense of guilt and shame in me that I all but sobbed :

“No, thanks. I—I’ll take the trolley.” “But why?” asked Mr. Conwitt, surprised. Maybe I was very silly for doing what I ¡ did, but I couldn’t help it. I stood there I biting my lip, trying to fight back tears. It ; took a few seconds before I could control my j

voice. Then I told him the whole honest truth. How else could I square myself?

“You’ve been laughing at me all evening,” I said. “Laughing because you know how I’ve been trying to pull you away from the other girls with my tricks. I’m not denying it, Mr. Conwitt. It’s exactly what I tried to do. I—I was fighting for you against Julia Lane and the others. I didn’t realize until tonight how cheap and disgusting and contemptuous the whole thing must have seemed to you. Now I’m ashamed—I’m thoroughly sick of myself—I—”

That was when I heard the trolley coming. What more could I say to him? It seemed to me that if I attempted another word I’d break into sobs.

So I turned before he could stop me and raced for the corner. I was just in time to catch the trolley. When I looked back I saw him gaping after me.

You must realize, Mrs. Coe, that after Friday night I couldn't dream of returning to the store. How could 1 endure the humiliation of having him smile at me every morning when he passed my counter? I knew he must regard me as a stupid and vulgar little fool.

Mrs. Jones, my landlady, thought I was insane when I packed my things the next morning.

It was-impossible to explain to her what had happened. How could she be made to understand why I was leaving my job? Why I was leaving Pineville? If I told her it was because 1 was ashamed of facing Anthony Conwitt again, she’d have attempted to dissuade me, to make me stay.

So 1 simply told her I’d received a telegram from my Aunt Cecilia in New York, who was very ill. 1 really have an Aunt Cecilia in New York, and Mrs. Jones knows all about her.

At nine o’clock Saturday morning—this i morning—instead of being at my counter, I am on the train to the city. In fact, I’m writing this on my way. I feel you may be interested to know the result of your advice. I shall never again see Anthony Conwitt. Sincerely,

r"PHE LETTER left me staring in dismay. -L Heaven knows that when I entered

into this correspondence with Nancy Ferguson—for the sake of filling the column and in a mood which had been basically humorous—I’d had no desire to plunge the young lady into misery. To rob her of a job and a home. Just why I should feel guilty about the whole mess, it’s hard to explain. Yet a sense of guilt did obsess me. I scratched my jaws and sent my fingers crawling through my hair and finally lit a pipe while I fiowned at the desk.

Jimmy Haner looked into the door, grinned, and said:

I stared at him thoughtfully. I threw a dictionary at his head and went back to surveying the typewriter.

The damage was done as far as Nancy Ferguson was concerned. Somewhere in New York the poor kid must be sprawling on her bed, sobbing wretchedly. Somewhere else, up in Pineville, Anthony Conwitt must be chuckling with the memory of a series of funny Friday nights.

I began wishing I could communicate with Nancy Ferguson again. Maybe to offer her a bit of solace. But how? I knew neither her right name nor where to find her. Nevertheless, I did append to the column:

Do let me know how you are, my dear child. M. M. C.

Two days later her final letter came. It made me bat my eyes in surprise. She wrote:

How can I ever thank you enough for your interest in me? When I saw your message in the column, I felt that you are indeed one of the truest friends I’ve ever had. Certainly you’ve done more to change my life than anybody I ever knew.

I would certainly have communicated with you immediately, if it hadn’t been for

all the excitement that has crowded these past two days. I hardly know how to start telling you what happened.

In the first place, when I came to New York I did go to the home of my Aunt Cecilia. There was so little money in my purse that I didn’t feel I ought to spend any of it on a hotel room. Of course, my aunt was very much astonished to see me in New York. Whether she was pleased or not when she heard I’d given up my position, I can’t say. But she received me cordially enough.

I’d been in her house scarcely five hours when the bell rang and—can you guess who it was that came? No, you’ll never guess.

Anthony Conwitt !

Yes, Anthony Conwitt himself! Looking very angry and Hushed and exasperated and handsome. I was in the living room when he stepjxîd into the apartment. He snatched off his hat, and his dark hair dangled over his forehead. He must have seen my aunt, but he completely ignored her. Instead—much to her amazement and outrage—he came straight to me, threw his hat aside, and caught my shoulders. He shook me as if I’d been a wilful and disobedient little child.

“What the devil’s the idea,” he demanded, “of running away like this?”

I simply stood there and gaped at him. Honestly, Mrs. Coe, even if I’d wanted to reply 1 don’t think I could have produced any sound just then. My throat was clogged. My eyes were round. It was unbelievable that Anthony Conwitt had de-1 liberately followed me all the way to New York. Somewhere in the back of my mind I realized that Mrs. Jones must have told him I’d come to Aunt Cecilia’s. And he must have caught the very next train—unless he drove.

“Well?” he repeated. “What was the idea?”

I looked at my aunt. She is a very large lady with heaps of grey hair; and she gaped at Anthony as if he had suddenly begun to yell in a church. But she was so surprised that it never occurred to her to interfere.

It wasn’t until he’d shaken me again that I found my voice. Exactly what you might have advised me to say in such circumstances, I can’t even guess. All that occurred to me was to tell him the truth.

“I felt too humiliated to face you again,” I whispered.

“How ridiculous!” he flung back.

“But I made such a deliberate and cheap attempt to steal you away from the others—”

“It wasn’t cheap,” he declared angrily. “It was just funny. The first night you started it you really amused me. I drove you home that night, if you remember. And for the first time I had a chance to speak to you for filteen or twenty minutes without interruption. We sat in the car outside your house.

I discovered you were just about the sweetest kid I’d ever come across. Everything that happened after that—the way the other girls adopted your notion of finding new tricks—the rest was just farce. It didn’t count. Didn’t you realize how I’ve been hanging around you, hanging around your counter? Didn’t you realize ...”

And do you know what happened then, Mrs. Coe?

Anthony dragged me into his arms and hugged me! After a while, when I could catch my breath, I blinked at my aunt. She was horrified. But when she saw my face, she suddenly began to laugh. She laughed so hard and loud that it was positively indecent. And then she went out of the room, dosed the door, left Anthony and me together.

Of course, I’m going back to Pineville with him. As long as he’s in New York, Anthony says, he’s going to look around and do some buying for the fall season. He asked me to pick out a few clothes, too. He said I’d need them. He said he wanted his wife to have the best she could find. Anyhow, dear Mrs. Coe, I’m going back to Pineville with Anthony—and I want you to realize that I’ll never forget the gratitude I owe you. A couple of months ago my personality was altogether petrified. I was just a

1 wallflower in the ballroom of life. Today 11 have blossomed out. as you so beautifully 1 ! put it in your first letter. I feel alive and important and happy and glowing. I feel ( as if I could race to the top of the world and I dance there. I could even kiss Julia Lane. ! Thank you, dear Mrs. Coe. Thank you a thousand times ! Affectionately,

Nancy Ferguson.

T_T ALF AN HOUR later I was lighting my I pipe when a copy boy told me I was | wanted in the chiefs office. When I entered, i Old Horseface glowered up at me with all I his customary' sourness.

“Kerry,” he snapped. “Margaret Mer-1 chant Coe’s coming back. She’ll be in tomorrow—ready to take over her column. I suppose you’ll be glad to be rid of it, anyi how. You’ve been on that petrified personality stuff just about long enough, haven’t you?”

I grinned and agreed:

“Yes—just!”